By Tim Liotta
Major Decisions Ahead in 2024
PGA Tour players who prefer an off week prior to playing in major championships will have more at risk in 2024 if they make that decision as part of their final preparations for the PGA Championship and the U.S. Open.
Taking an off week prior to those majors in 2024 would mean sitting out a $20 million PGA Tour Signature event, and that could have longer-term consequences depending upon the player's place in the Tour's FedEx Cup standings.
With limited fields in Signature events, which offer the most FedEx Cup points and the biggest purses on the Tour schedule, such a decision would give their competitors an extra Signature week or two to solidify their own exemptions into the Tour's most lucrative events in 2025.
The week prior to the 106th renewal of the PGA, scheduled for May 16-19 at the Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, KY, the Tour has scheduled the Wells Fargo Championship at the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The week prior to the 124th U.S. Open, set for June 13-16 over the No. 2 Course at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club, features the Memorial, the Jack Nicklaus-hosted tournament in Dublin, Ohio.
"There's a lot that I like with this schedule next year," said Rory McIlroy prior to the FedEx Cup playoffs getting started. "I love Quail Hollow going straight into PGA. I love Memorial going straight into U.S. Open.
"I think for me anyway, the run-up to Augusta is a little -- I don't know what I'm going to play there, if at all. Maybe play San Antonio the week before."
RORY MCILROY'S MAJOR CHAMPIONSHIP RECORD
The 14-week major season in 2024, which is condensed one week from 2023's 15-week season, kicks off with the Masters Tournament, April 11-14, and concludes with the Open Championship, July 18. The calendar has been altered to include the 2024 Olympics, which will play its golf event the week of July 29th to August 4th.
If the top players are any indication, an off week prior to a major is the preferable way into a major. Looking at the 2023 schedules for the top 9 players (based on the Official World Golf Ranking), players opted not to play the week prior to a major 75 percent of the time.
And that percentage includes 8 of the 9 players opting to play in the Genesis Scottish Open, the week prior to the Open Championship, as a refresher for playing links golf. Only Jon Rahm skipped the event.
In the first three majors of 2023, only Brian Harman played the week before the Masters, only Scottie Scheffler played the week before PGA, and only Rory McIlroy and Matt Fitzpatrick played the week before the U.S. Open.
If 2023 is an indication, the spring-summer stretch through the majors can be a tough trek. By the time the Open concluded, Rickie Fowler had played 8 times in 10 weeks.
"I was kind of running on an empty tank at the Scottish and the British," Fowler said prior to the . That was the last of -- eight out of 10-week stretch."
Scheffler also decided to shut things down after the Open Championship, saying he, "focused on rest, I would say, most importantly.
"After the major season that we had and having all the elevated events, and with me playing good golf, being in contention a lot of the weeks and having some decent chances to win definitely wears on you mentally.
"I was pretty tired after the Open. Just took a nice good -- I think it was eight days off where I didn't touch a club, just took pure rest and started practicing beginning of last week to get ready for (the FedEx Cup playoffs)."
Rahm, on the other hand, gave himself a lot of time off around the Open Championship, making 2023's final major his only start in the 10 weeks between the U.S. Open and the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
"Those three weeks off before the Open in my mind were needed," Rahm said prior to the FedEx St. Jude Championship. "I was able to play really well early on, and we played a lot of tournaments and be in contention, and that can take a toll.
"It was very needed to recharge, and I could feel the difference on the golf course at The Open."
Because of the PGA Tour's new playoff system, which in 2023 has been limited to the top 70 on the FedEx Cup points standings. Major championship fixtures Justin Thomas and Adam Scott found themselves one shot out of the playoffs this year.
The 2024 Signature events will offer 700 FedEx points to the winner, and with eight on the calendar - three with smaller fields without 36-hole cuts - players ranked outside the top 30 will have little choice but to play in the Wells Fargo and the Memorial next year if they are eligible.
No matter how they prefer to make their final preparations for a major championship.